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Blu-ray Review: T2 Trainspotting

June 28, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Spud (Ewan Bremner) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) are back in T2 Trainspotting, Danny Boyle’s much awaited follow up to his breakout 1996 classic, which poignantly reunites us with the characters twenty years later.

Mark is now mostly clean and living in Amsterdam, and the story begins when he returns to Scotland to catch up with his old mates.  Sick Boy is stuck working at a rundown pub, which he is trying to turn it into a bathhouse with his lover and business partner Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova), and he needs Mark’s help to get the proper funds.

The endearingly simple Spud is depressed and still hooked on heroin, having lost his job and family due to his struggle to get clean, and he is saved from a nasty suicide attempt when Mark comes in.  Begbie is in jail at the start of the film, but he promptly escapes to go on a crime spree, and is hellbent on getting vengeance on Mark for betraying him twenty years earlier.

When we first met these characters, they were young adult junkies drifting through life, always looking for their next hit.  Now they are middle aged, but still just as lost when you really get down to it, now drawn to their glorified views of the past as a new sort of drug.  This is a fascinating place from which to approach a sequel, showing characters who are still stuck in the moment of time when we first met them, but are now forced to figure out a way forward.  The four central cast members fit perfectly back into their roles, finding new shades to explore and bring to these characters.

Although T2 Trainspotting is a bit shaggier and looser than the adrenaline shot of the first film, which felt very much like a product of the ’90s and became emblematic of the decade it existed in, it’s still a blast to hang out with these characters again.  The film strikes a good balance between paying tribute to the original, and also being its own thing, using the two decades that have passed to explore powerful themes of nostalgia and how you can never really return to the past.  There is a real poignancy to seeing these characters back together, and T2 Trainspotting is grounded in the moving reality that time has gone on but some things haven’t changed.

Danny Boyle continues to prove himself as one of our most visually exciting filmmakers, working here with cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle to craft a film that feels completely of the moment in its utilization of different aesthetic styles, from close up point of view shots to some flashy uses of Snapchat filters.  The quick edits, freeze frames and match cuts that defined the style of the original are also on display here, along with some flashes of shocking imagery, giving the film an exhilarating and highly stylized sense of energy.  The visual style is matched by another excellent soundtrack.

The moving and brilliantly staged final scene cleverly brings things full circle to the opening of the first film, right down to its pitch perfect musical cue.  As a complimentary companion piece to the original, T2 Trainspotting is an entertaining and emotionally resonant chance to catch up with characters we knew from before, as they grapple with the painful realization that their lives haven’t advanced like they wanted them to, but they also can’t return to the past.

The Blu-ray also includes a commentary track with Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge, as well as a bunch of deleted scenes, and the excellent featurette 20 Years in the Making: A Conversation With Danny Boyle and the Cast, which presents a fascinating discussion of the story and characters.

T2 Trainspotting is a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release.  It’s 117 minutes and rated 18A.

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